In 2003, South African-born clown and facilitator, Jamie “Banjo” Max McLaren Lachman, aka Jabulani Nene Mshengu, met Moshe Cohen who was the founder of CWB-USA at a workshop in NewYork City. He was instantly captivated with concept of awakening joy and laughter in the hearts of children back in his home country. A year later, Lachman and 3 clowns from the United States and Ireland journeyed to Southern Africa for a 3-week tour. It was an epic trip working with over 15 different organisations and performing over 20 times for more than 3,000 children in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, and Western Cape.
Following this expedition, Lachman created Project Njabulo to focus on children affected by HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. He expanded CWB Project Njabulo in 2005 and 2006 to almost half a year of activity in the field including projects in Lesotho and Swaziland. At this point, all of CWB Project Njabulo’s funding came from the generosity of individuals in the United States. Over this period, they reached more than 60,000 beneficiaries.
Things started to get local in 2007! While working on a cultural exchange project between Swedish and South African arts organisations in Durban called Circus Life South Africa, Lachman met many local artists – both professional and amateur youth. After a professional development training programme through Circus Life, these artists came together with Lachman to initiate Clowns Without Borders South Africa. The first project involved an exploratory expedition in partnership with CWB-USA in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal with 8 artists and facilitators performing 8 shows for over 8,000 children. CWBSA followed this trip to create the Njabulo HIV/AIDS Residency and Life Dreams Follow-Up Programmes in KwaZulu-Natal with Woza Moya Project and Robs Smetherham Bereavement Service for Children. This deepened our ability to provide lasting psychosocial support to children and their guardians beyond the momentary relief of performances and 1-day workshops.
In 2008, CWBSA expanded its projects reaching over 40,000 beneficiaries with 100 performances and residencies for almost 1000 children and 120 adults. In partnership with oursister CWB chapter in Sweden, we initiated a year round local capacity building project in Swaziland with the Lutheran Development Service. We also continued to send residencies and performances to communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo,Lesotho, and Swaziland with existing and new partners. In order to expand our own capacity, we also began a professional development programme with local youth artists in Durban that addressed issues of xenophobia in response to the violence in May, 2008. It was during this time that we received timely sponsorship from Europcar (formerly Imperial Car Rental) for vehicle rental.
2009 saw a continuation of CWBSA’s growth as we established a local office in Durban and began three additional local capacity building projects in KZN and Lesotho. We also doubled our operating budget each year for the past two years receiving grantsfrom ArtAction, the National Arts Council, PEPFAR (through Ingwavuma Orphan Care), Yale University, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Ethekwini Municipality. In 2009, CWBSA also worked in areas outside of Southern Africa including the Middle East and Sudan. We also presented our work at numerous conferences and festivals both in South Africa and internationally.
Clowns Without Borders South Africa is part of an international network of autonomous sister CWB chapter in Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Germany, United States, Belgium, France, and Canada. We meet annually to discuss partnerships and implementation methods. We also share a common code of ethics that unites us in our efforts to provide emotional relief and laughter to children and guardians around the world.
Clowns Without Borders International began in Spain in 1993 when Tortell “Jauma” Poltrona, a professional Catalan clown from Spain was asked by the children at a school in Barcelona to go to the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia to perform for refugee children. The children in Barcelona raised the funds to send Tortell to Croatia after refugees in the Istrian Peninsula wrote them: “You know what we miss most? We miss laughter, to have fun, to enjoy ourselves.” On that first project Tortell performed for 4.000 Children in Croatian refugee camps. Upon his return to Spain, Tortell founded “Payasos Sin Fronteras” (Clowns Without Borders Spain) as a means to provide psychological relief to children affected by crisis. The idea of clowning without borders quickly spread to France, Sweden, and Belgium as artists performed in the Balkans as well as the Middle East and Latin America.
Now, 20 years later, the Clowns Without Borders International Federation is made up of 14 Clowns Without Borders national chapter organizations.Clowns
Clowns Without Borders International (CWBI) chapters share a common mission: to offer joy and laughter to relieve the suffering of all persons, especially children, who live in areas of crisis including refugee camps, conflict zones and territories in situations of emergency.
CWBI is legally based in Spain and composed of 14 operational chapters throughout the world:
CODE OF ETHICS
All the chapters of Clowns Without Borders International throughout the world adhere to the same Code of Ethics. These principles provide the artists with a commonly understood framework with regard to their conduct in the field:
- Performances are the main activities of Clowns Without Borders. Other artistic activities may be undertaken.
- The principle beneficiaries of Clowns Without Borders are children who live in crisis situations and their respective communities.
- Clowns Without Borders interventions shall always be free for the audience and/or participants.
- When performing the artists shall not discriminate against members of the public on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, age, religion, culture, social situation or any other differentiating category.
- Participating artists shall be volunteers and they may be paid when performing for Clowns Without Borders within their own country. In countries where basic living needs are not provided for by this work and/or governmental support, the sections may provide the artist with a stipend.
- Participating artists shall not use the humanitarian activities of Clowns Without Borders to promote their professional careers.
- Participating artists shall not use Clowns Without Borders activities to impose personal points of view upon audiences. Artists will not attempt to educate the population, and shall refrain from proselytism of any type.
- Participating artists shall take into account the sensibility of the public, as well as their culture and the delicate situation in which they are living, when choosing the contents of their performances and workshops.
- Participating artists, when working with Clowns Without Borders projects, see and share difficult situations throughout the world. As Clowns Without Borders is not a political organization, if artists would like to give public testimonies of their experiences, they must always make it explicitly clear
that Clowns Without Borders does not express any political views, nor takes any side in a conflict, and that the opinions given are a personal and are based on personal experiences.
- As representatives of Clowns Without Borders in the field, during performances and when in contact with the public, participating artists shall remain clowns and performing artists, and this is our principal method of intervention.
- The artists of Clowns Without Borders shall respect laws, norms and cultural customs in the countries that they visit.
- In order to obtain economic support Clowns Without Borders shall remain attentive to the ethical values and to the respect for human rights of our sponsors and partners.
- CWBSA is a drug-free organization. During the period of contract, the Independent Contractor shall refrain from the consumption, possession, or sale of any illegal substances. Smoking of tobacco and drinking alcohol is prohibited in the presence of children.
- All artists (and facilitators) will also will abide to all of Clowns Without Borders South Africa’s specific organisational protocols including Safety, HIV/AIDS, Children’s Right’s, and Code of Ethics.